Wenger's taunt well timed

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The Independent Football

Shortly before his team drew the League champions in the stand-out pairing of yesterday's FA Cup fifth-round draw Arsène Wenger forecast that Manchester United's money-making visit to Saudi Arabia last week could give Sir Alex Ferguson problems. He will hope that the difficulties manifest themselves on 17 February, when the pair are likely to play their Old Trafford tie.

United received an estimated £1m for their trip, which involved playing in a testimonial and doing some publicity work with the House of Saud.

Wenger said: "I have never done such a trip and I am not a fan of doing one. It can have a long-term impact and a short-term one."

Ferguson, while happy to comment on the affairs of other clubs – witness last week's observations on Liverpool's owners – is rarely impressed when fellow managers talk about United's actions. Wenger's comments may be the first charge in a jousting match between the two during the next few weeks.

The Arsenal manager added: "You can suffer in the next game as you travel, you come back, you need time to adjust and you switch off when you are away to a different country. So the focus could go a little bit and you can suffer in the next game after."

Manchester United did win their next match, Sunday's FA Cup tie against Tottenham, but they were far from dominant and seemed flattered by the 3-1 scoreline.

FA Cup draw


Bristol R v Southampton

Cardiff City v Wolves

Sheff U v Middlesbrough

Liverpool v Barnsley

Man Utd v Arsenal

Preston v Portsmouth

Coventry v WBA

Chelsea v Huddersfield

Ties to be played 16/17 Feb.